According to a Stabroek News report (12/11/2014) the Chairman of Caricom, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda Gaston Browne stated that Caricom is “not too concerned at this point” over the prorogation of the Guyanese Parliament because President Ramotar has given the assurances that he will make an announcement on General Elections in early 2015.
Should Guyanese take this comment by Caricom’s head seriously? It has been more than a month since the President prorogued the parliament and it is only now that the Chairman of Caricom seems to see it fit to make his comment. This is in stark contrast to other international bodies which, shortly after the President signed the proclamation, did not hesitate to issue statements regarding this most important issue. It was almost one week after the parliament was prorogue when I wrote a letter to the media in which I questioned the silence of Caricom. Many Guyanese found this silence to be most worrying.
Interestingly, the Chairman of Caricom found his voice one day after President Ramotar made his “half baked” comments about possible elections in 2015. Prior to this announcement, Prime Minister Browne and Caricom were mute despite several calls made by local political parties, local organizations and individual Guyanese citizens.
Reading Mr. Browne’s statement, one may easily get the impression that the Chairman of Caricom and his team had prior knowledge that President Ramotar was going to make this “election announcement” and therefore, they were merely playing the waiting game as they await the Guyanese President to make this “half baked” announcement. One now wonders, what is Caricom’s true mission, as it relates to member states?
Chairman Browne noted in his comments that the issue of the prorogation of the parliament is Guyana’s domestic matter, which Caricom, probably has no business meddling in. However, his very comments intimate that he may have had prior discussions with Mr. Ramotar regarding this very “domestic matter”, hence a contradiction in his message on “abstention from this so called domestic matter”. I am therefore, forced to ask whether Caricom has evolved into an organization whose main function is to protect leaders in the Region at the expense of the people?
Clearly, the Chairman’s comments have not helped to erase the dull feeling many Guyanese have of Caricom. All along we believe that Caricom had little or no interest in attempting to mediate in a matter which affects the people of Guyana, one of its founding member states.
Another aspect of Prime Minister Browne’s comment I find to be very partisan and very much involved in this Guyanese “domestic issue” was his opinion regarding President Ramotar’s action. According to the Caricom Chairman, Caricom will “respect the President’s judgment and Constitutional right,” to suspend the legislative branch of government.
While claiming to be a neutral observer in this situation Mr. Browne still felt the need to express an opinion in favour of Mr. Ramotar’s act of proroguing the parliament. Remember, in this very news interview Prime Minister Browne suggests that Caricom will not intervene in, what he describes as, “Guyana domestic issue”, but yet he took the liberty to not only make a comment supporting the President’s action but he also ventured to tell Guyanese that their President had the constitutional right to prorogue their parliament and that Caricom believes in Ramotar’s judgment here.
Browne’s comments were made even though the proclamation was issued for all the wrong reasons. My question to Mr. Browne and the rest of Caricom would be for them to tell Guyanese whether the “end” in this act to prorogue the parliament truly justifies the “means?” Putting it simply, President Ramotar boldly stated that he made a decision to prorogue the parliament in order to have the opposition talk to him and also to avoid a vote of No Confidence against him and his government.
So, proroguing the parliament represents the “end”, and “bullying the opposition into talks and avoiding the No Confidence Motion” represents the means. This for me is a classic example of brass-faced coercion and dictatorial tendencies.
Therefore, is the Caricom Chairman telling Guyanese and the rest of the world that Caricom will defend any leader of a member state who abuses the constitution in this repressive and dictatorial manner? That is, to coerce and bully the opposition and people into subjecting to the whims and fancy of the executive arm of the state? Further, is Prime Minister Browne saying that he knows that the framers of the Guyana constitution intended for it to be used in such repressive and bullish ways?
In case Prime Minister Browne and Caricom forget, the parliamentary opposition in Guyana represents the majority of the people and in any democracy the most basic rule is “majority rule with minority rights respected.” In this prorogation dilemma, the executive minority has clearly abrogated that basic rule. I therefore, believe that the comments made by the Chairman of Caricom, with respect to the current political impasse in Guyana, needs to be re-examined by the leaders of the Region.
If Prime Minister Gaston Browne’s comments really reflect the position of Caricom on the issue at hand then the entire regional body might find it necessary to review the role of Caricom with a view to becoming more relevant in the 21st Century. Secondly, Caricom must decide whether the Chairman’s comments on this matter really reflect the organization’s position of non-involvement in “domestic matters” of member states, as espoused by PM Browne.
At best, Caricom’s posture on the prorogation of Guyana’s parliament can be described as nothing but an escape route and a lack of will to address serious and important matters affecting member states. It is positions like these, taken by significant organizations like Caricom, which may tend to aid and abet repressive actions of regimes like the PPP/C. Will Mr. Gaston Browne perpetrate such repressive and bullish acts against the people of Antigua and Barbuda and then seek refuge under some provision in the Antiguan Constitution?
Let me state that I have been a strong supporter of Caricom and an advocate of regional integration. However, given the way Guyana and its people have been treated by both Caricom and certain member states recently, I am forced to review my own position on these matters.
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